Updated: Nov 22, 2018
Scientists have long known that stress complicates a host of health problems. Now they are discovering that chronic stress doesn't merely worsen disease, it actually can cause it.
Massage therapy has been shown to be a way by which stress can be reduced significantly on physical and psychological levels. Massage therapists know from experience that massage reduces stress, there is growing research that backs up this experience.
Stress can be categorised under 2 main headings – Acute and Chronic stress.
Are you acutely stressed?
According to the American Psychological Association, acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from recent or current demands and pressures and expected future demands. Because it is short term or momentary, acute stress doesn't have enough time to cause the levels of damage that can be seen in chronic stress sufferers. Think of the situations such as giving a speech at your bests friend’s wedding, interviewing for the job that you really want, being late for an important date or running your first marathon! For many people those can be considered acute stress moments.
As a massage therapist, it is usual to see clients with a form of acute stress. There was no parking, the traffic over Shepperton bridge was terrible, they forgot their glasses or the childcare arrived late are just a few of the frequent reasons. This form of stress can be quietly calmed, and often the client will be fully relaxed within a few minutes of starting a massage therapy.
Or do you suffer from chronic stress?
Chronic stress on the other hand is more complicated and has many different causes. It could be triggered by the difficulties of daily life such as the commute from Walton on Thames to London, from financial to family circumstances, employment conditions and pressures from work, from illness or a personal bereavement. This is a long term form of stress that wears away at a person and often occurs over a lengthy period of time. Sadly, some people become so used to the chronic stress, facing it on a daily basis, that they accept that it is part of their lifestyle. Fortunately massage therapists can help.
Many scientists think that our stress response system was not designed to be on constant alert. Chronic stress can have a serious impact on our physical and psychological health due to the ‘fight or flight’ response causing the release of large quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. These chemicals cause an increased heart rate, muscular tension, sweating and both physical and mental alertness to help protect us from the source of stress which the body is perceiving as danger.
Research has suggested that chronic stress can contribute to, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, anxiety, depression and addiction, obesity and insulin dependence, headaches, and muscular tension and pain. It may also affect sleep, or potentially lead to insomnia, and digestion issues.
Why massage helps?
There is a long history of the use of massage for stress reduction, and regular massage is a widely used technique in several cultures to reduce chronic stress and anxiety. Clinical research and trials support the view that regular massage reduces the severity of anxiety, specifically when related to work stress or prior to a medical operation.
Having previously experienced chronic stress, I have seen how stress management massage can have powerful effects. In addition, working with clients who complain of stress or anxiety, I have seen the benefits of regular massage therapy reducing anxiety, removing the muscular tension and the aches and pains associated with it and enhancing the feeling of general well-being. Clients have often talked to me about the benefits of having their massage at home. The comfort of being in their own space, and knowing that they do not have to re-dress or face the world after the massage adds to the relaxation experienced.
Research completed into the use of pressure during massage, has shown that Moderate pressure is the most effective at stimulating relaxation, increasing oxytocin, reducing cortisol and helping to regulate emotions.
Which massage would I recommend?
Relax with Ease Massage - Using a combination of long sweeping techniques of Swedish massage techniques focusing on the legs, arms and back with a variety of motions to relax muscle tissue, release tension and break up muscular adhesions. The combination of Swedish techniques alongside the use of aromatherapy oils assists in providing both relaxing effects and muscle release.
Indian Head Massage – A highly relaxing massage and stress reliever. The scalp consists of thin layers of muscle that can hold a great deal of tension, and the ears contain several hundred pressure points which when massaged release natural stress relieving hormones. Taken either in a seated fully dressed position or lying down with the use of oils, the Indian Head Massage provides a stimulating yet fully relaxing massage.
The Head to Toe Massage – This is a fantastic combination of the Relax with Ease and Indian Head Massage, with a further focus on the feet with a 15 minute foot massage. The feet hold numerous acupressure and reflexology points that not only help with the reduction of tension in the feet and legs, but also positively impact on other areas of your body.
Although every person handles stress in their own way, its quite likely that at some point we will need a little self-care. Whilst stress in some ways can be exciting or motivating it also has the potential to do harm. Whilst the majority of clients find that they benefit immediately from a massage, for those who are managing chronic stress, I recommend a course of massages in order to assist in creating a self-care habit, and to aid in reducing, if not reversing the effects of stress.
To discover more and to book a Stress Management massage, visit the With Ease Wellness Massage Collection.